Traffic volumes have jumped 140 per cent on University Avenue in the last seven years, prompting city staff to suggest halting occasional on-street parking on the busy thoroughfare.
Back in 2012, city council opted to give staff the “delegated authority” to green-light parking on University Avenue between Lakeheand University and Rotary Place for large-scale events.
Typically, that only occurred during graduation ceremonies at Lakehead or large tournaments and events at Rotary Place.
Staff believe such parking is no longer safe.
It’s a “proactive” move to address “a safety issue that has been identified,” Lisa Dobson, a city traffic technologist, told council committee members Monday.
When council approved this idea in 2012, “Costco didn’t exist and there were 4-500 fewer homes in the area,” said Dobson.
In June of 2012, the average annual daily traffic count was about 1,200 vehicles. By March of 2018, that number had skyrocketed to 2,900.
“As a result of the growth in West Ridge, traffic volumes on University Avenue have increased by 140%,” Dobson explained.
She said that number is likely to increase further as the next phase of homes is built at Stone Ridge, as the new OPP detachment is developed across from Rotary Place and as enterprises move into the Horne Business Park.
“Due to the increase, it’s no longer a safe option to regularly remove a lane from a five-lane arterial road,” said Dobson.
Coun. Mason Ainsworth, who formerly lived in West Ridge, said he was “happy to support” the decision.
“I think safety is paramount in this area,” he said, noting “it was crazy busy” in the area during his graduation ceremony at Lakehead this summer.
He said the decision doesn’t mean the end of big events.
“We’re not eliminating the potential for events,” said Ainsworth, noting the Orillia Recreation Centre, set to open later this year, could accommodate the larger events.
Coun. Ted Emond said he was concerned about the impact on large-scale hockey tournaments at Rotary Place that have occasionally required the on-street parking in the winter months.
Dobson noted there is available overflow parking at Scout Valley and said staff could plow the back parking lot (used for the artificial turf field for three seasons) for potential use for hockey tournaments.
Coun. Tim Lauer also noted council could make an exception, at times, to allow on-street parking.
He said the decision only removes the “delegated authority.” But city council, as a whole, could, at any time, vote to allow on-street parking.
Council committee endorsed the idea of rescinding the ability of staff to delegate authority for on-street parking.
Decisions made by council committee are subject to ratification at Thursday’s regular meeting of council.